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How One Soap Factory Is Committed to Going Green

Method’s soap factory in the historic Pullman District of Chicago— designed by William McDonough + Partners and dubbed, “The South Side Soapbox”— is the first-ever LEED Platinum Certified manufacturing plant in its industry.

Numbers don’t lie

The Soapbox has a 230-foot tall, 600kW turbine that provides 30 percent of the annual energy consumption for the building. Three 35×35-foot solar-tracking panels follow the sun from sunrise to sunset to collect maximum wattage.

Production, filling and distribution all happen under this 150,000-square-foot roof, which means the soap is driven 1,000 feet in a colorful forklift instead of 1,000 miles when it’s ready to be bottled and shipped.

The factory is a bright, open and airy building with loads of natural sunlight which helps employees actually enjoy their environment — a pretty novel concept in manufacturing plants, which usually do not have quite so many, if any, actual plants.

In case anyone gets hungry while making soap, there’s 75,000 square feet of greenhouse on the roof run by Gotham Greens, producing about 500 tons of fresh vegetables (which goes to community markets and restaurants).

An additional 1,500 square feet of roof supports a green canopy growing outside, which helps use less energy, improve air quality and reduce storm-water runoff.

The Soapbox is near railroads, meaning product can be shipped by rail, which is much less fossil-fuel is burned than if products were shipped by fleets of trucks.

Since it opened in 2015, the Soapbox has helped reduce Method’s carbon emissions by 200-metric tons.

Committed to community

The most important item on the list of Soapbox ingredients is the people. They drove the decision of the San Francisco-based Method to plant its manufacturing operation in Chicago.

“Ultimately the potential to provide jobs and improve the livelihoods of people on the South Side of Chicago was the reason we made Pullman our home,” says Saskia van Gendt, senior director of sustainability at Method.

The South Side area had seen better days and the community welcomed the revitalization the construction would ignite. And with the skilled workforce at the ready and the facility being located near an urban center — creating short, easy, low-emission commutes — on a site with a manufacturing past, it made the decision a no-brainer.

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